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The cast of The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov barely fits in the Red Room on West 4th St. There are fourteen actors (14), who represent over a third of the living creatures in the tiny space on top of KGB bar. The play is also crammed full of personalities: the sisters of the title, their brother, his wife, the alcoholic doctor, the Baron, his ill-mannered friend, the school teacher, two soldiers, the elderly female servant, the elderly male servant, and the artilery commander. It’s a lot of emotion to pack into a space the size of a one bedroom apartment.
Like a silvery, slippery sardine is kind of how you feel when you sit down, elbow to elbow with other viewers, and with your knees poking into the actors. (The seats are set in the round, so to speak, on the perimeter of the play space that stretches the length of the floor.) This is not in-your-face, interactive theater like De La Guarda, where the performers dance with the audience during the performance, but I get the feeling that the large company, the director Jess Chayes, and the set designer Nicolas Benacerraf were making a virtue of necessity when they wrapped the audience around the players in an almost uncomfortable embrace.
How many times over the last ten years have you been embroiled in a conversation about what to call the last decade? The “Ohs”? The “Aughts”? I think part of the outpouring of relief two weeks ago when we entered the identifiable “Tweens” was due to having a commonly accepted label to put on our present historical period. When have the first ten years of a decade had anything in it worth remembering? What happened in 1905? What was the big news of 1810? Retro was popular in the 90s, but these days — sheesh! — you can’t swing a dead cat in a circle without hitting somebody who’s living like it’s 1899.
Is this a sign of national decadence and decline? The impulse to get back to a more wholesome time is surely behind the National Theater of the United States of America’s production of “Chautauqua!” at the Public theater.
Everything old is new again! At least that’s how it feels these days. Five long years ago the vogue in vintage was vintage 70s — 1870s that is. Remember when conservatives wanted to repeal income tax and Social Security? It was the new Gilded Age.
But ah, how quickly the worm turns! Now vintage styles in dress and drink reflect the more sober times of the Great Depression and the privation of WWII. Only we call it the Great Recession, and our great global war is being fought by guys with explosive powder in their banana hammocks.